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Nonverbal communication is usually understood as the

process of communication through sending and receiving wordless (mostly

visual) messages - i.e., language is not the only source of communication, there
are other means also. Messages can be communicated through gestures and
touch (Haptic communication), by body language or posture, by facial expression
and eye contact. Meaning can also be communicated through object or artifacts
(such as clothing, hairstyles or architecture). Speech contains nonverbal
elements known as paralanguage, including voice quality, rate, pitch, volume,
and speaking style, as well as prosodic features such as rhythm, intonation and
stress. Dance is also regarded as a form of nonverbal communication. Likewise,
written texts have nonverbal elements such as handwriting style, spatial
arrangement of words, or the physical layout of a page and removal of things.

Characteristics of nonverbal communication

1. Non-verbal messages primarily communicate emotions, attitudes.

2. Non-verbal cues substitute for, contradict, emphasize or regulate verbal
3. Non-verbal cues are often ambiguous.
4. Non-verbal cues are continuous.
5. Non-verbal cues are more reliable.
6. Non-verbal cues are culture bound.
7. Non-verbal behaviour always has communicative value.
8. Non-verbal communication is powerful.

Clothing and bodily characteristics

Uniforms have both a functional and a communicative purpose. This man's
clothes identify him as male and a police officer; his badges and shoulder sleeve
insignia give information about his job and rank.

Elements such as physique, height, weight, hair, skin color, gender, odors, and
clothing send nonverbal messages during interaction. Research into height has
generally found that taller people are perceived as being more impressive.

Physical environment

Environmental factors such as furniture, architectural style, interior decorating,

lighting conditions, colors, temperature, noise, and music affect the behavior of
communicators during interaction. The furniture itself can be seen as a nonverbal

Proxemics: physical space in communication

Proxemics is the study of how people use and perceive the physical space
around them. The space between the sender and the receiver of a message
influences the way the message is interpreted The perception and use of space
varies significantly across cultures and different settings within cultures. Space in
nonverbal communication may be divided into four main categories: intimate,
social, personal, and public space.

Chronemics: time in communication

Chronemics is the study of the use of time in nonverbal communication. The way
we perceive time, structure our time and react to time is a powerful
communication tool, and helps set the stage for communication. Time
perceptions include punctuality and willingness to wait, the speed of speech and
how long people are willing to listen. The timing and frequency of an action as
well as the tempo and rhythm of communications within an interaction contributes
to the interpretation of nonverbal messages 2 dominant time patterns:

Monochronic Time

A monochronic time system means that things are done one at a time and time is
segmented into precise, small units. Under this system time is scheduled,
arranged and managed.

Polychronic Time

A polychronic time system is a system where several things can be done at once,
and a more fluid approach is taken to scheduling time. Unlike European-
Americans and most northern and western European cultures, Native American,
Latin American and Arabic cultures use the polychronic system of time.

Movement and body position


Information about the relationship and affect of these two skaters is

communicated by their body posture, eye gaze and physical contact.

The term "Kinesics" was first used an anthropologist who wished to study how
people communicate through posture, gesture, stance, and movement

Posture can be used to determine a participant’s degree of attention or

involvement, the difference in status between communicators, and the level of
fondness a person has for the other communicator. Studies investigating the
impact of posture on interpersonal relationships suggest that mirror-image
congruent postures, where one person’s left side is parallel to the other person’s
right side, leads to favorable perception of communicators and positive speech; a
person who displays a forward lean or a decrease in a backwards lean also
signify positive sentiment during communication. Posture is understood through
such indicators as direction of lean, body orientation, arm position, and body


A wink is a type of gesture.

A gesture is a non-vocal bodily movement intended to express meaning. They

may be articulated with the hands, arms or body, and also include movements of
the head, face and eyes, such as winking, nodding, or rolling ones' eyes. The
boundary between language and gesture, or verbal and nonverbal
communication, can be hard to identify.

Although the study of gesture is still in its infancy, some broad categories of
gestures have been identified by researchers. The most familiar are the so-called
emblems or quotable gestures. These are conventional, culture-specific gestures
that can be used as replacement for words, such as the hand-wave used in the
US for "hello" and "goodbye". A single emblematic gesture can have a very
different significance in different cultural contexts, ranging from complimentary to
highly offensive

Gestural languages such as American Sign Language and its regional siblings
operate as complete natural languages that are gestural in modality. They should
not be confused with finger spelling, in which a set of emblematic gestures are
used to represent a written alphabet.

Gestures can also be categorized as either speech-independent or speech-

related. Speech-independent gestures are dependent upon culturally accepted
interpretation and have a direct verbal translation.

Haptics: touching in communication

A high five is an example of communicative touch.

Haptics is the study of touching as nonverbal communication. Touches that can

be defined as communication include handshakes, holding hands,back slapping,
high fives, a pat on the shoulder, and brushing an arm. Touching of oneself may
include licking, picking, holding, and scratching. These behaviors are referred to
as "adapter" or "tells" and may send messages that reveal the intentions or
feelings of a communicator. The meaning conveyed from touch is highly
dependent upon the context of the situation, the relationship between
communicators, and the manner of touch.

Humans communicate interpersonal closeness through a series of non-verbal

actions known as immediacy behaviors. Examples of immediacy behaviors are:
smiling, touching, open body positions, and eye contact. Cultures that display
these immediacy behaviors are known to be high contact cultures.

Haptic communication is the means by which people and other animals

communicate via touching. Touch is an extremely important sense for humans;
as well as providing information about surfaces and textures it is a component of
nonverbal communication in interpersonal relationships, and vital in conveying
physical intimacy. It can be both sexual (such as kissing) and platonic (such as
hugging or tickling).

Touch is the earliest sense to develop in the fetus. The development of an

infant's haptic senses and how it relates to the development of the other senses
such as vision has been the target of much research. Human babies have been
observed to have enormous difficulty surviving if they do not possess a sense of
touch, even if they retain sight and hearing. Babies who can perceive through
touch, even without sight and hearing, tend to fare much better. Touch can be
thought of as a basic sense in that most life forms have a response to being
touched, while only a subset have sight and hearing.

Oculesics ( Eye gaze )

The study of the role of eyes in nonverbal communication is sometimes referred

to as "oculesics". Eye contact can indicate interest, attention, and involvement.
Studies have found that people use their eyes to indicate their interest and with
more than the frequently recognized actions of winking and slight movement of
the eyebrows. Eye contact is an event when two people look at each other's eyes
at the same time. It is a form of nonverbal communication and has a large
influence on social behavior. Frequency and interpretation of eye contact vary
between cultures and species. Eye aversion is the avoidance of eye contact. Eye
contact and facial expressions provide important social and emotional
information. People, perhaps without consciously doing so, probe each other's
eyes and faces for positive or negative mood signs. Gaze comprises the actions
of looking while talking, looking while listening, amount of gaze, and frequency of
glances, patterns of fixation, pupil dilation, and blink rate.

Paralanguage: nonverbal cues of the voice

Paralanguage (sometimes called vocalics) is the study of nonverbal cues of the

voice. Various acoustic properties of speech such as tone, pitch and accent,
collectively known as prosody, can all give off nonverbal cues. Paralanguage
may change the meaning of words ,classification system consists of the voice
set, voice qualities, and vocalization.

 The voice set is the context in which the speaker is speaking. This can
include the situation, gender, mood, age and a person's culture.
 The voice qualities are volume, pitch, tempo, rhythm, articulation,
resonance, nasality, and accent. They give each individual a unique "voice
 Vocalization consists of three subsections: characterizers, qualifiers and
segregates. Characterizers are emotions expressed while speaking, such
as laughing, crying, and yawning. A voice qualifier is the style of delivering
a message - for example, yelling "Hey stop that!", as opposed to
whispering "Hey stop that". Vocal segregates such as "uh-huh" notify the
speaker that the listener is listening.

Functions of nonverbal communication

There are five primary functions of nonverbal bodily behavior in human


 Express emotions
 Express interpersonal attitudes
 To accompany speech in managing the cues of interaction between
speakers and listeners
 Self-presentation of one’s personality
 Rituals (greetings)